Queen's University — Since 1873
28th June 2011

In a name

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When Juliet addresses her soon to be deceased Romeo saying, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet,” I have to disagree.

To me, the name by which we call something is not happenstance. Far from arbitrary, a name is an integral part of that thing. I don’t think words like serendipity, sprezzatura or magnanimous would have the same charm and appeal if the meaning were the same and the word was different.

It’s an idea that lacks a clear logical progression. Do I love the word violin because it’s beautiful, or simply because I love the strains of its strings?

Avoiding that trap, I take as an example my own name: Andrew Fraser Stokes. No other single part of me manages to encompass so much of my identity. Compared to an image or a recording of my voice, my name gives a fuller picture of who I am.

Andrew comes from the Greek word “andron” which means “man,” so my first name essentially equates to manliness—fitting if you’ve ever seen me saw down a tree or rescue a baby from a burning building.

Fraser was my grandmother’s maiden name; a family name that ceased when she married. I carry with me the last remnant of that proud old lineage. I like to think it adds an extra layer of myth and heroism to the baby saving.

And Stokes is my favourite of the three. It’s quick and punchy. I like the look of it.

Stokes carries the stories of my family’s past and it’s a name I’m proud of. Any of the reservations I’ve had about my first two names have never been a factor for Stokes.

As a whole, my name speaks volumes about who I am and who I want to be.

Of course, I don’t expect people to address me by my full name—that would be awkward and cumbersome. But for my sake, don’t take it upon yourself to decide my name is Andy or Drew. I bet there are loads of people who love being called Andy but I’m simply not one of them.

When I hear my name shortened, I cringe. I have the right to tell people what I want to be called but I don’t usually correct them.

So please, call me as I was named. It’s really not too much trouble. An Andrew by any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet—Billy Shakes will make an exception for me.

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